Holiday town on the northern shore of Port Stephens.
Once you cross the famous Singing Bridge, the bridge "sings" when the south-westerly winds are blowing, from Tea Garden you are in Hawks Nest. It is an unusual town-village which runs between the Myall River and the town's main beach (a distance which is only around 1 km wide) and stretches for 16 km up the coast from the shores of Port Stephens. With the notable exception of Yacaaba Head, a volcanic remnant which rises 210 metres at its southern extremity, Hawks Nest is flat and scrubby. Historically it emerged as a service centre for the local fishing and timber industries but since the 1950s it has been a family holiday destination and retirement place where the relatively small local population (a little over 1,000) is dramatically increased in the summer months. The road to the north of the town leads to the Myall Lakes National Park.
Hawks Nest is located 230 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway, 83 km north-east of Newcastle and 15 km from the Pacific Highway.^ TOP
Origin of Name
There was a time, long before satellite navigation, when the large nest of a hawk was used as a navigational marker to indicate the entrance to Port Stephens. That is how this place became known as Hawks Nest.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Water and bushwalking.
Boating, swimming, surfing, wind surfing, water skiing, diving, fishing, canoeing, bushwalking, bird watching and camping are the main reasons people come to Hawks Nest. There is ocean waves to the east and the peacefulness of Port Stephens and Myall River to the west. This is a location for rest and for leisure activities.
Viewing Koalas and the Koala Reserve
The Koala Reserve is located on Kingfisher Avenue (at the corner of Ibis Avenue) which is just across the Myall River and just beyond the Singing Bridge. The koalas in the area are regarded as endangered (read all out them at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/nature/recoveryplanKoalaHawksnest.pdf) because of dogs and road kill. It is possible to spot them in the eucalypts, particularly swamp mahoganies, at the Koala Reserve and they also inhabit a strip of land to the west of Mungo Brush Road north of the town.
Hawks Nest Beach
Hawks Nest beach, also known as Bennetts Beach is the jewel in the local landscape. It stretches north to Myall Lakes National Park and south to Yacaaba Head. It is popular with both surfers and swimmers.
Other Attractions in the Area
Cabbage Tree Island - John Gould Nature Reserve
Offshore is Cabbage Tree Island (26 ha) which was named after the cabbage tree palms in the two gullies on the island's western side which are the only known nesting site of Gould's petrel. Although not accessible Cabbage Tree Island can claim to be the one island in New South Wales to include rainforest habitat. As a result of this unique feature it was the first gazetted flora and fauna reserve in the state.
The onshore signage is both informative and unambiguous: "Located 2 km north east of Yacaaba Head and measuring just 1 km long and 450 m wide, the island rises abruptly to a height of 123 m. Cabbage Tree isladn is the only forested offshore island in New South Wales coastal waters, and the rainforest it supports is the most southerly offshore rainforest in Australia. The most spectacular of the island's inhabitants are the birds. More than 100 species havce been recorded on and around this small outcrop of land. Most notable among these is the rare and critically endangered Gould's Petrel. This enigmatic seabird comes ashore only to breed and does so only on Cabbage Tree Island. The island is managed by the NPWS and because the island is deemed critical habitat for the Gould's Petrel, public access and landing on the island is totally prohibited and may result in a $200,000 fine or gaol term."
Millions of years ago massive volcanic disturbances formed Yacaaba Head. Lava, subsidence and erosion have changed the landscape so that now Yacaaba Head is a remnant of an ancient volcanic peak and the local topography and the rocky outcrops are the product of lava flow.
Is climbing Yacaaba Head worth the effort? Well, yes, but it can be difficult. The views are spectacular and the effort involved is genuinely challenging. The walk starts from the beach at Hawks Nest and heads along the southern end of Bennetts Beach. The first part of the walk is 3 km along the narrow spit which separates Hawks Nest from Yacaaba Head.
At the base of the promontory the track, which has come across the beach, splits into two. A path, the Jimmys Beach Track, leads around the base of Yacaaba to the headland's pebbly southern side where there are views across the mouth of the bay to the southern peninsula of Port Stephens. Dolphins frequent this area and use the area close to shore to rub their bodies on the smooth pebbles. It is known as Dolphin Hole.
The other walk is to the top of Yacaaba Head. There are, in essence, three stages. The first is gradual and progresses through some beautiful bush. It reaches a mid-level viewpoint which looks north-west providing excellent views of Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens. From here the walk becomes seriously steep but it reaches the highest point on the Head where the views are breathtaking and all hard work seems worthwhile. Parts of Hawks Nest are obscured by trees but the view to the west over the hinterland across to the mountain range and south along the coast is superb.
The National Parks website (check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/yacaaba-headland-walking-track) explains that the walk is 7 km return, takes between 2 hr 30 min and 3 hr 30 min, and describes the walk as "the track climbs steeply and you’ll notice smooth barked angophoras giving way to gnarly banksias and grass trees. As the track veers north, take a break and admire the inspiring views up the coastline. On a clear day, the distant blue ridge line of Barrington Tops is visible. The track gets rockier and steeper, but along the forested ridge top you’ll be treated to coastal views of Seal Rocks and Tomaree Headland. Out to sea, Cabbage Tree Island, known as John Gould Nature Reserve, protects the only known breeding colony of one of the world’s rarest birds; the Gould’s petrel."
Myall Lakes National Park
The Myall Lakes National Park is an idyllic coastal location which lies immediately to the north of Hawks Nest and is primarily about experiencing nature whether it is through bushwalking on the Mungo Track; experiencing the Aboriginal cultural heritage and huge sand dunes at Dark Point; or exploring the rainforest at Mungo Brush. The extensive waterways are ideal for such relaxing activities as sailing, surfing, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing, sunbathing, swimming, camping, water skiing and bushwalking. There is an excellent, downloadable brochure - http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/~/media/visitor/files/PDF/Brochures/myall-lakes-and-booti-pdf-new.aspx - which outlines all the main attractions in the park.
Access to the Park
Myall Lakes National Park can be entered via Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest and then along Mungo Brush Road which travels around the Bombah Broadwater. The road is sealed all the way to the Bombah Ferry. When it crosses over the narrow stretch of water it continues on the Bombah Point Road to Bulahdelah. There are a series of signposted beach access tracks for 4WD vehicles which depart from Mungo Brush Road to the beach. There is a useful map of all entry routes at http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/~/media/visitor/files/PDF/Brochures/myall-lakes-and-booti-pdf-new.aspx.
If you travel from Hawks Nest, the Myall Lakes National Park starts 4.3 km north of Kingfisher Avenue at Hawks Nest. There is an information board which explains the park and provides information on the 21 km (one way) Mungo Track which follows the Myall River and the lake edge to Mungo Brush, on the southern shore of the Bombah Broadwater, the southernmost of the Myall Lakes where the bird life is prolific. It starts 750 m north of the information board and, for those wanting to experience the beach, there are tracks to Dark Point, Sandy Point and Hole in the Wall.
Dark Point Walk and Wildflower Walk
The walk to Dark Point is clearly signposted on the eastern side of Mungo Brush Road, 8 km from the start of the Mungo Track. It traverses a series of impressive sand dunes and reaches an unspoiled stretch of coastline which looks across at Broughton Island. Both Broughton Island and the waters off Little Gibber are noted diving spots. Broughton Island is an important breeding location for a number of birds. It is possible to camp on the island. It caters for up to 30 people. For booking information tel: 1300 072 757. There is a Wildflower Walk to the west of the Dark Point Walk. It is best in the spring months between August and October.
Mungo Brush Rainforest Walk
The Mungo Brush Rainforest Walk is an easy 30 minute, 2 km loop track which departs from the northern edge of Mungo Brush campsite. The first section of the walk passes beside the lake and then heads into some dense and quite beautiful rainforest. The walker passes from sand to stone and from paperbark to rainforest. This is an indication that the path is crossing one of the area's ancient volcanic peaks. Mungo Brush is a small rocky hill that was once an offshore island. The mixture of fauna and flora is captivating. Amongst the sedges, broad-leafed paperbark, swamp oak, coogera and brush bloodwood are lorikeets, wattle birds, honeyeaters, bowerbirds, kookaburras, green catbirds, little terns, ground parrots, the jabiru and tawny frogmouth, eastern grey kangaroos, echidna, lace monitors, koalas, sugar gliders, ring-tailed possums, carpet pythons, flying foxes and bandicoots. There are also marsupial mice and dingoes in the park.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Worimi Aborigines.
* Port Stephens was sighted by Captain James Cook in May, 1770 who named it after Philip Stephens, secretary of the Admiralty. He observed smoke from Worimi campfires.
* The first Europeans in the area were five convicts whose boat sunk off Port Stephens in 1790. They were seen as reincarnated ancestors by the Worimi who aided them and accepted them into the tribe.
* The harbour was entered by the convict ship the Salamander in 1791 and charted by deputy surveyor-general Charles Grimes in 1795 who described it as low and sandy.
* Governor King ordered a survey of the Port by William Paterson in 1801.
* The port was personally inspected by Governor Macquarie in 1812 who found it "good, safe, and capacious" but decided there were too many shoals and the land was too barren to support a colony.
* Cedar cutters moved into the area in 1816. The timber was hauled by bullock train to mills, then carted by punt down river to Hawks Nest and the Winda Woppa peninsula. Ships bound for Newcastle and Sydney picked up the timber, unloading the stone they carried for ballast on the banks of the river, much of it being used in the construction of the rock walls which can still be seen today.
* The Australian Agricultural Company (AAC) were granted half a million acres including Tea Gardens in 1826 and a base of operations was established at present-day Carrington with 80 settlers, 720 sheep and some horse and cattle.
* By the late 1820s passing ships and whalers were using Port Stephens as a source of wood and water. The approaches to the Port were dangerous and there were plenty of shipwrecks: 24 by the time the first lighthouse was built at Point Stephens in 1862.
* One pioneer was Frank Motum who arrived from England in 1877 and, with his family, established a hauling business shipping fish to the Newcastle and Sydney markets.
* A timber mill was built at Winda Woppa in 1920 and shipped out 13 million square feet of wood in 1922.
* The mouth of the Myall near Tea Gardens was traversed by punt which, until 1928, was the only access to Hawks Nest.
* A ferry service across the Myall River was established in 1928.
* The Singing Bridge was completed and opened in 1974.^ TOP
The nearest Visitor Information Centre is the one at Tea Gardens Visitor Information Centre, 245 Myall Street, Tea Gardens, tel: (02) 4997 0111, open 9.00 am - 4.00 pm seven days a week.^ TOP
There is a useful local website - http://www.teagardens.nsw.au - which lists most of the services available in the town.^ TOP